THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: After the Maggi Noodle fiasco, it has come to light that even the food supplied by the Railways contains harmful and poisonous substances.
Giving credence to the fact, the sample reports from the Government Analyst’s Laboratory, here, reveal that around 30 food samples collected from various trains running across Kerala contain harmful and carcinogenic elements. But this is just a tip of the iceberg. The samples were collected in a period of three years - 2012-’14.
The numbers will be even higher, said sources in the Railways on condition of anonymity.
Last month, a woman and two children on Kerala Express were hospitalised at Palakkad due to food poisoning after they consumed a paneer dish.
The report which is with the ‘Express’ says the food samples contained harmful elements such as added synthetic colours - sudan dye 1 and 1V, (Sunset yellow FCF colour index 15985), (Carmoisine with colour index 14720), (Tartrazine with 19140), Brilliant Blue FCF - colour index 42090, Metanil yellow which were prohibited under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006).
Some products did not have company labels while some do not conform to the food safety standards (Packaging and Labelling 2011) and is therefore misbranded. These harmful ingredients were found in chilli powder, turmeric, chilli and tomato sauce, curd and bottled water.
Though, the defaulters were penalised, they get away easily, Railways sources pointed out.
“A meagre amount of Rs 2,500- Rs 3,000 is charged by way of fine. Because the catering agencies take contract for crores of rupees from the Railways,” they said.
Besides, the defaulters also make advantage of the loophole existing in the system, they clarified.
“The health inspectors who collect samples are not vested with more powers. They could levy a fine of Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000. On the contrary, the food safety officers who can take the matter to prosecuting the defaulters are less in number. Shockingly, for Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad divisions, there are only one food safety officer. Less number of food inspectors will lead to poor implementation,” the Railways sources said.
Things were well and good when the Railways was directly in charge of it.
“But everything went topsy-turvy once it started assigning the job to outside agencies. Most of the caterers are big north Indian companies,” said sources.